Churches vandalised in Pakistan's Punjab province over blasphemy allegations
Minorities including Christians and Hindus in Pakistan have frequently been subjected to blasphemy allegations and some were tried and even sentenced.
LAHORE: Several churches were vandalised in Pakistan's Punjab province on Wednesday over blasphemy allegations, officials said.
The Salvation Army Church, United Presbyterian Church, Allied Foundation Church and Shehroonwala Church situated in the Isa Nagri area in the Jaranwala district of Faisalabad were ransacked, Imran Bhatti, the pastor of the Jaranwala tehsil, was quoted as saying by Dawn.com.
Bhatti added that the house of a Christian cleaner, who was accused of blasphemy, was also demolished.
Punjab police chief Usman Anwar said the police were negotiating with the protesters and the area had been cordoned off.
"There are narrow lanes (in the area) in which small two to three marla churches are located and there is one main church they have vandalised portions of the churches," Anwar told Dawn.com.
The official said that efforts were underway to contain the situation by engaging with peace committees and police across the province were activated.
"The assistant commissioner of the area, a member of the Christian community, has also been evacuated after people turned against him, Anwar added.
However, Christian leaders alleged that the police remained silent spectators.
President Bishop of the Church of Pakistan Azad Marshall said that "Bibles have been desecrated and Christians have been tortured and harassed having been falsely accused of violating the Holy Quran.
"We cry out for justice and action from law enforcement and those who dispense justice and the safety of all citizens to intervene immediately and assure us that our lives are valuable in our own homeland that has just celebrated independence and freedom, he said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Bishop Marshall added that all priests, bishops and lay people were deeply pained and distressed at the incident.
Former senator Afrasiab Khattak condemned the incident and demanded that the culprits should be brought to book.
"Pakistani state has failed to provide security to the worship places of people who follow religions other than Islam. Impunity to the crimes committed in the name of religion has emboldened extremists and terrorists, he added.
Minorities including Christians and Hindus in Pakistan have frequently been subjected to blasphemy allegations and some were tried and even sentenced under the tough blasphemy law.